Review: J.P. Wiser's 35 Year Old Canadian Whisky / by Jason Hambrey

Wiser's 35.jpg
35 Years; Refill and Virgin Oak Casks
Double Distilled Corn and Rye Whiskies
Distiller Hiram Walker (Windsor, Ontario)

The oldest release of Wiser's ever - in fact lots of old Canadian whisky is now coming on the market, quite affordably. This is largely double distilled corn whisky - distilled to a high abv, with a relatively light flavor - which would be an example of a "base" whisky used for blending - except that this is aged for a long time in a reused cask. At the distillery, it is very impressive - mature whisky is sucked right out of the casks from the top of the barrel after which point the barrels move about a metre and are filled with new whiskies, sitting empty for a matter of seconds. But, this light corn whisky picks up flavor as it ages years upon years in the cask, and becomes something rich and delicious. If you've had Wiser's 18, it has many of those characteristics, except - it is much older, richer, and contains about 10% column and pot distilled rye (matured in virgin oak casks) to give it incredible character.

This is part of the 2017 Northern Border Collection, originally released at the Victoria Whisky Festival. It is an annual release, and they have some great plans for next year.

Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

The nose here is glorious – light oak, old rye, black tea, raosted root tea, arugula, blueberry, rich old corn whisky, slate, tobacco, molasses, tofee, burning oak, boiled tomato, amber beer, and even complex underlying vegetal notes reminding me of roasting agave. One of the best noses I have had the pleasure of enjoying – marvelously complex, balanced, and interesting. The palate is full of flavor, starting with old, brilliant corn whisky before the rye in all its brilliance creeps in – floral, with lilacs, aged tea notes, and spices – clove, cinnamon, fiery arugula, and also oak bringing with it light tannins and smoky notes. The finish is full, rich, and encompassing – with luxurious blueberry, green apple, tea, roasted fennel seed, and clove. Ever so lightly, and pleasantly bitter.

Corby’s and Canadian Club have a bit of a bitter history over who got the distillery, and, likewise, two of the best Canadian whiskies ever released – Wiser’s 35 and Canadian Club 40, overshadowing the Wiser’s in age, have been released – and they are both of them marvelous whiskies. Wow. I do love the rye in here, and I find it more interesting – but perhaps less luscious than the equally terrific Canadian Club 40.

Exceptional (3% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date receive this, my highest recommendation). One of the best whiskies I’ve ever tasted, probably in my top 3.

Value: Very High. For such a good whisky to be in the realm of $165 CAD means it’s a great buy, but at the price, the quality needs to remain top-notch.

Review (2018)

  • Batch: 2018

  • Bottling Code: 54SL24 L18205 EW12:47

  • Bottling Date: 2018

The nose has lots of stone fruit – peaches, apricot, flavorful plums – but also green apple. There is a brilliant thread of spice in the background – star anise, clove, and freshly cracked black pepper (with all the cedary implications). It’s quite creamy, too! And, interesting – it has a nice, subtle grassiness to it – like a freshly cut lawn, in the spring, when it’s wet – not dry like in the fall. Lest we not forget grain, there’s also lots of notes of high-quality multigrain cheese crackers. The stone fruit is really well done here – it is less “quirky” than last year and fits more into the generic style of a top-of-the-line whisky (no slight against last year’s fantastic release). Great nose.

The palate carries through with all of the expected fruit, but leading in a bit with that earthy, funky rye which adds a terrific layer of complexity. There’s almost a smokiness to it – it is immensely complex. The fruit is great – it’s a rich, intense, dried fruit characteristic – most like dried peaches. Oolong tea, too.

The finish is fruity (dried peaches), lightly oaky, and carries a terrific thread of earthiness and intense floral characteristic. The rye has a great vegetal characteristic – spinach, kale, and arugula…nice.

Doesn’t have the rye-forward complexity of the previous years release, which had lots of earthiness – I found it quite fascinating. This is more on the fruit, and it’s a little more typical in profile. While I find it a bit less intriguing, it is easier to drink, and I keep reaching for another – moreso than last year’s release.

Another stunning whisky.

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I review to date get this recommendation or higher). This is still a fantastic release - absolutely stunning.

Value: Average. The whisky is stunning, but the price jumped up to $200 and we’re getting into a dangerous zone value-wise. However, for a great whisky that’s 35 years old, there is still some value here.